December 08, 2003

It Was 23 Years Ago Today


Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

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November 02, 2003

The View From The Top Of The World

Wife and I killed some time today in downtown Chicago, enjoying, among other things, a lunch date at the original Pizzeria Uno, just as my mother and father often did nearly 45 years ago (Dad: Yes, I had a martini, but no, I didn’t drink a beer with no hands … that trick remains solidly yours).

We also decided to do something purely Tourista and visit the Sears Tower Skydeck. It was a cloudy, rainy day here, and the visibility from floor 103 was anything but perfect. There’s something quite cool about being above the clouds, though, and I thought you’d enjoy some of the snaps I took from 1,500 feet. As always, click the pic for a larger version.

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You Heard It Here First

At last night's event Wife and I saw two singers who absolutely blew us away, and who we're certain will become household names in the coming years. The first was Michael Bublé, whom Wife has been promoting among friends since downloading his latest CD from iTunes several months ago. He sings swing, and last night said his job is “to make people horny.” He does a damn fine job.

Even more impressive, though, was Renee Olstead. Stop and write that name down … R-e-n-e-e O-l-s-t-e-a-d … got it? Good. Now take that piece of paper, and put it in a file titled “Grammys.” Also in that file place a second piece of paper that says “Between 5 and 10” … because that’s at least as many Grammys Renee Olstead will win before her career is complete. She sings Jazz, she’s got the talent of a Fitzgerald or Holiday, and she’s … get this … 14 years old. A truly incredible singer. Blew. Us. Away. Learn more about her here, and if you have the $15 or so it takes to purchase one of her albums, do so.

Like the title says: You heard it here first.

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It's A Bird ... It's A Plane ... It IS A Plane!!

Hello from Chicago, where Wife and I were in town yesterday for a swanky black tie event, and where today we plan to enjoy the city a bit. I've some tidbits to share in a later post, but for now let me say that staying at the O'Hare Hyatt is wonderful … right up to the point in the morning when flight operations begin. Our morning was 747 as alarm clock, and as I type this, I do so looking up at the Airbus 320 flying directly (and I mean DIRECTLY) overhead. We resist the temptation to duck, but enjoy watching the jets come in.

Blog you later …

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August 26, 2003

Blue Light Special

My mother forwarded this email today:

Assume you have all see the reports about how Sears is treating its reservist employees who are called up? By law, they are required to hold their jobs open and available, but nothing more. Usually, people take a big pay cut and lose benefits as a result of being called up… Sears is voluntarily paying the difference in salaries and maintaining all benefits, including medical insurance and bonus programs, for all called up reservist employees for up to two years.

I submit that Sears is an exemplary corporate citizen and should be recognized for its contribution. Suggest we all shop at Sears, and be sure to find a manager to tell them why we are there so the company gets the positive reinforcement it well deserves.

Pass it on.

My mother forwards things like this from time to time, and each time I check it out on Snopes and, somewhat disappointed, inform her that the item she's sent along is false.

Except when it's true, like this item about Sears. Been to Sears, lately? Tomorrow might be a good day to go, eh?

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I blog this from one of the new WiFi-enabled McDonald’s, and it’s very cool. Like the WiFi Starbucks, but with better lunchtime smells.

The subject of this post: service personnel and their treatment. Last night I ordered room service at my hotel, a Hyatt in Chicago I frequent. After my meal arrived I realized I’d forgotten to order a beer, so I called room service and asked, if they had a meal coming up in the near future, if they’d bring me a beer in the same trip. This exchanged ensued:

“We’ll bring you one anyway.”

“No, only if someone’s coming up … I don’t want to anyone to make a special trip.”

“We’ll bring you one anyway.”

And that was that. When room service arrived they did so with two beers, not one, on the house. The waiter refused the tip, and then thanked ME for being a wonderful guest, one the staff is “always happy to serve.”

It is astonishing to me that people don’t treat service personnel with more humanity. I don’t receive service like this … or like the free upgrades I get on flights where I don’t have elite flyer status … or like complementary valet parking … or like the complementary shuttle service I’ll get around town (rather than a cab) … or like a cab at my beck and call when I need one … because I’m a big tipper. I receive great service because I treat service personnel like human beings, like my equal, and like people with whom I have something more than a transient relationship.

So, in the interest of providing benefits to you, my fair reader, I offer the following advice regarding how to always receive fantastic service:

  • The most important rule: treat all service personnel as if they, and their time, are more important than you and your time. You are no better than those who serve you. Indeed, given what they face in a given day, they may be better than you.
  • Exercise patience and say thank you. I guarantee that whatever type of day you’ve had, the person behind the airline counter has had a tougher day than you. They’ve certainly dealt with more assholes, and you shouldn’t be the next. So remain patient, ask how you can help them, and say “thanks” when they’re done.
  • Call service personnel by name, and remember those names. Strangers can’t build relationships of any quality. Call Bob “Bob” and encourage him to call you by your first name as well … even if he won’t.
  • Tip well, but not too well. If you’re over the top with your tips you suggest a status difference—that you’re better than whomever you’re tipping. But an extra buck or two, depending on the service, every time, says you really value the service that person is busting their butt to provide. My rules: $2 for a car (sometimes at drop off and always at pick up), $1 per bag for valet plus one or two bucks extra, 20% ALWAYS for meal and cab service (unless it’s awful, and then 15%), and an extra buck or two on top of the room service charge. And always tip in cash. Then they get the gratuity, not Uncle Sam.
  • Never ask service personnel to do something you’re not wiling to do yourself. If your car us just across the lot, ask for the key, tip the valet, and make the short walk to get it yourself. If you want a beer from room service that you forgot to order, don’t ask someone to make a special trip, ask for someone to bring it on the next room service trip to your floor (after all, if YOU were willing to make a special trip you’d go down and get one from the bar). Again, it’s about status, and suggesting that you and the staff are equals.
  • Spread the benefits of your status. Whenever I check into a Hyatt, I’m offered an amenity of some food snack—cookies, fruit plate etc.—and some drink—two beers, a split of wine, etc. Every third time or so I ask that the kitchen send my food amenity to the folks at the front desk, or in housekeeping, or the valet. Because nobody ever rewards these folks in an intangible way, other than tips, and it’s a very sincere way of saying “thanks.” Frequent travelers have a lot of perks: spread some of that love to those keeping your room clean or foot hot.
  • Finally, build ongoing relationships with people you know you’ll see often. Learn about their family. Ask about where they’re going to school. Help them with a resume if you can. And for fee-for-service providers, like cab drivers, give them a franchise: find one you like, and tell them you’ll call them every time you’re in town and need a ride. Then you’ll always have one, it will always be someone you trust, and you’ll be able to call in a favor when you need to.

There you go. From me to you, no charge. And if you happen to be among the many service personnel that keep our economy chugging along, thanks for working a tough job—one that most of us would not do by choice—and for wearing a smile most of the time. If we run into each other, the beer’s on me.

Posted by Avocare at 01:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 25, 2003

Happy Birthday To Michele!!

She's a blogging inspiration, she's my rock-steady blogging partner, and damnit, she's just one cool Long Island honey.

Happy birthday to Michele! May she cavort naked about the house for hours, and may she post photos.

Oh, and it's her one-year wedding anniversary as well. So pay a visit, and offer congratulations in her comments. Consider it virtual paper.

Posted by Avocare at 09:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Windy City

Hello from Chicago. Running this morning, but I thought you might want to read what historian H. W. Brands has to say about the United States' founding fathers and adoration (here, via the Atlantic Monthly).

Oh, and be sure to check out the new Chicago webcam (click the camera icon in the “Dispatch” line below). Blog you soon.

Posted by Avocare at 08:02 AM | TrackBack